Instant office comes with a receptionist, phones, boardroom — even artwork and bike storage

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

North Shore’s Griffin Business Centre lets smaller operators avoid having to set up their own space

Brian Morton

David Laniado, in a boardroom at his North Vancouver Griffin Business Centre. Below, he shows off an executive office at the centre. Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

Unlike large companies, many small businesses don’t have enough capital for a stand-alone office with its own meeting room, technology, personal reception, or even a water cooler.

To fill the gap, North Vancouver’s Griffin Business Centre, which opened in the fall of 2008, is leasing office space to more than 15 local small businesses so that they share such things as administrative support, an executive boardroom, business machines and office services, bike storage, showers, even a soundproof meditation room.

“All they need is their own computer and they’re set up,” Griffin president and founder David Laniado said in an interview. “They can focus on their business and we deal with everything else.”

Griffin Centre opened its 15,000-square-foot facility last fall and provides a fully furnished packaged office centre, including an extensive artwork collection, a state-of-the-art business centre and technology, 24-hour access, weekly office cleaning, and two kitchens.

“We set out to create the ideal environment for the entrepreneur,” said Laniado, who has four full-time employees at the centre to answer telephones for clients and take care of other business. “They want a first-class, inexpensive work space, and they don’t want to waste time with the usual hassles of running an office, dealing with IT, HR etc.”

Laniado, who has a background in real estate development, said a typical office at Griffin Centre rents for about $800 a month.

The centre also offers a “virtual office” starting at about $70 a month that includes telephone answering, mail handling and administrative support, as well as access to other services.

Laniado claims that by utilizing his model, clients can save about $25,000 in start-up costs and at least $50,000 per year. Laniado got his centre off the ground with a $6-million investment, including $3.5 million for the building and $2 million in renovations.

He has room for 34 clients and expects to be full by the end of the year.

Laniado also notes that more than four out of five businesses in Canada are micro-businesses, or companies with four or fewer employees.

“We have small companies and some larger businesses that don’t require a lot of space,” he said. “We also have large companies with satellite offices. [They have] very, very modest overhead, no capital expenditures. The desk and phone is there. The meeting rooms and projectors are all there.

“We have [as clients] a basketball school, an inventor, a couple of people in the medical field, and an architect. It’s an entrepreneurial atmosphere.”

Some of his clients are North Shore businesspeople who transferred their operations from Vancouver.

Steven English, a certified general accountant who has an office at Griffin Centre, said he’s very pleased with the centre because it has given him everything he needs at a good price.

“It’s saved me a lot of money and inconvenience. I’ve got a central point of reference for clients, who can drop things off if I’m not there. And I’ve got a meeting room any time I need it. The reception is excellent.”

Laniado is also working on a plan to open another centre in Surrey.

His advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Keep your overhead under control. There’s a tendency to look bigger than you are.”

He said one way he’s building his centre in recessionary times is to go back to the basics.

“Don’t be so cocky, be more appreciative of every deal. And I focus on service, on providing clients with the ultimate office experience.”

Griffin Business Centre


Date formed: November 2008.

Number of employees: Four.

Startup costs: $6 million (including purchase of building).

Number of clients in November 2008: Two.

Number of clients today: 15, plus another nine “virtual” clients.

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